Artists and Dyslexia – Day 103

[Today’s featured artwork for Day 103 of the 365 Days Project is by Michelle Vara.]

Metal Sculpture of a man by miChelle Vara
“Henry Hudson and the Half Moon” by Michelle Vara. Photo courtesy ©Michelle Vara.

What do Steve Jobs, Tom Cruise, Lewis Carroll, Steven Spielberg and Leonardo daVinci have in common?

#103 – While not all Artists are dyslexic, the Artist Mind is the portal through which dyslexics experience their world.

A vivid imagination. An appreciation for color, tone, texture and form. Exceptionally visual and highly innovative. These are some of the characteristics of an Artist. They also represent the positive side of dyslexia.

I met Michelle Vara many years ago and, being a fellow artist, our conversation quickly turned to the subjects of art and the creative process. Vara works in a variety of mediums, from sculptural work in metal to paintings and murals, to airbrush commissions, faux-finishes and installations. She is a whirlwind of creative energy.

Our paths crossed again recently for this article, and as I researched her work and background, I discovered she is severely dyslexic.

Vara has what’s known as a “crossed optic lobe”, where incoming information goes to the opposite side of the brain, and is therefore received upside-down and backwards. “I think in pictures,” said Vara. “I remember people, events and ideas as if they were photographed. I also remember feelings, emotions, textures, lighting,…..but no words. I connect very differently from everyone else.”

At a young age, Michelle Vara’s father placed her in a Montessori school system. “I was considered an extreme case,” said Vara. “It took a very long time for me to develop verbal and reading skills. Had I been left to a parent who was not understanding and caring, I would have been labelled as retarded. I would not have blossomed in a public school system because I am unable to take regular tests, even though my IQ is actually well above average.”

Painting of a monster by miChelle Vara
“Neon Flames” by Michelle Vara. Photo courtesy ©Michelle Vara

How has art figured into her life? “I’ve been an artist from Day One,” answered Vara. “Thankfully. I grew up in an environment that embraced my differences, feeding my imagination. But don’t let me kid you, my path has not always been easy. I still received enormous pressure from the outside world – people would call me stupid, make fun of me. I got picked on terribly by adults as well as children.”

“Art is my refuge,” she continued, “and any uncomfortable situation would send me into creation mode. My best friends were a thoroughbred horse named Socks and a dog named Cherice. I am thankful I have always had the ease of art and the love of animal friends and I think all handicapped children should have a pet and a safe place to escape.”

I ask the artist if art helped her with her understanding of how her mind works.

“No,” Vara replied. “My mind works because of my art.”
“Art is where I feel safe and at home. I am driven on a soul level to create, which is why I feel a compulsion to be in that creative state continually, making visual statements and conversations. My art is my life – it’s all very metaphorical.”

“I draw daily,” she continued. “My life is one artistic picture after another – it is nothing more than visual accounts of time. I create sculptural work because I often feel compelled to create an idea/statement of dimension that is not only aesthetically pleasing but structurally sound. I often don’t have time to get all my ideas and thoughts into a physical object, so I may come back to it years later.”

Metal sculpture of a man by miChelle M. Vara
“The Guide” by Michelle M. Vara. Photo courtesy ©Michelle M. Vara.
Adirondack Museum Logo
Adirondack Museum Logo

Over the past 30+ years, Michelle Vara’s artwork has won numerous awards, and she regularly receives commissions from museums, corporations, individuals and municipal clients. The artist recently created a large-scale sculpture especially for the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, using the museum’s logo as her inspiration for the fascinating work entitled, “The Guide.”

Vara wants to make one thing perfectly clear. “Please understand that I do not see dyslexia as a handicap to who I am and what my work is,” she said. “It is my greatest birth gift.”

Life is what you make it. Michelle Vara knows how to make the best of her life, and she has the artwork to prove it.

SerenaK signature

Metal sculpture of a man by miChelle M. Vara
“Greed” by Michelle M. Vara. Photo courtesy ©Michelle M. Vara.

Michelle M. Vara’s artwork can be viewed at: Michelle M. Vara

Descriptions of the images included in this article:
Henry Hudson and the Half Moon
Michelle M. Vara, New York
Found metal

The Guide
Michelle M. Vara, New York
Found metal, paint

Michelle M. Vara, New York
Found metal, paint

The 365 Days Project

In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.

Experience the full evolution of the project! Click below to read the entire collection of articles.

Click to view The 365 Days Project

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